Winning strings will be on the line, but that won’t be the most important thing riding on the outcome of Friday’s GHSA Class A state playoff game in Donalsonville between Dooly and Seminole counties.
The biggest thing at stake for both the visiting Bobcats, who have won their last four starts, and the host Indians, who have run off eight victories in a row, is a berth in the Final Four.
“It’s a huge game, no doubt about it, and I’m hoping the tough schedule we’ve played has helped prepare us for it,” Dooly coach Jimmy Hughes said in anticipation of the battle that pits the pair of 9-2 squads.
“We know it’s hard place to play as they’ve had a lot of success there over the years and have a good tradition of doing well in the playoffs, period, much like last season when they made it all the way to the third round.
“With the playing-at-home or on-the-road thing maybe being a little overrated, I’m not really concerned about where the game is actually being played (the Bobcats are 5-0 in out-of-town games to date).
“What concerns me most at this stage of the season are penalties and turnovers since those are the things that quite often settle the outcome of games played at this level.
“That’s why we’ve strived during practice this week to get our kids in the right frame of mind so that when we go down there on Friday we’ll be ready to play at our best and see how it goes.”
During their visit to the Indians, they’ll be tackling a foe that began its season by sandwiching losses of 55-20 to Class AA Early County and 13-12 to Clinch County around a 34-32 win over Turner County. Dooly just beat the Rebels 20-8 in its playoff opener. That’s the lone common foe.
Since getting off to its 1-2 start, Seminole has rolled to regular season wins over Pelham (20-13), Terrell (27-6), Stewart (48-14), Calhoun (38-0), Randolph-Clay (39-12), Miller (29-0) and Mitchell (34-12) counties. The Region 1-A champs decked Commerce (36-7) in their playoff opener.
“From watching them on video, they’re a real athletic team that plays a physical style of football,” Hughes said of the Indians who because they won the Region 1-A title earned the No. 4 playoff seed.
Fifth-seeded Dooly, the Region 4 runner-up as the result of the tiebreaker rule used to snap a three-way deadlock for first place, actually has a better power ranking (13.43) than Seminole (12.669).
Offensively basing out of the I-formation from which it runs a lot of veer option as well, the Indians seemingly prefer an infantry approach as they stay on the ground about 80 percent of the time, Hughes said.
“Their senior quarterback (Jakhari Martin) and their two big running backs (Dequan Hamlett and Tobias Glenn) are the guys that make their offense go,” Hughes said.
“When they stick to the ground, everybody touches the ball a lot as they like to spread the carries and yardage around so that opposing defenses can’t key on any one particular player.
“They’re helped in that respect by having a big and impressive tight end (Jonathan Howard) as well as an offensive line that has better than average size and is real solid in blocking.
Defensively, the Dooly coach said Seminole has shown both four- and five-man fronts from which linemen Alex Koonce and Kendrick Williams have been standouts.
The Indians also get stellar stop-’em crew efforts from Martin at an outside linebacker slot and safety Danny Rambo, the younger brother of University of Georgia star defender Bacarri Rambo.
“Coming down the stretch, nobody has hurt them much running or throwing as they’ve been pretty stout these last five weeks (pitching two shutouts and allowing just 31 total points),” Hughes said. “They’re just solid on that side of the ball.”
The topic of conversation shifting to his own squad, Hughes said his players like their chances of moving on to the third round of state play for the first time in five years.
“Having been in some big games of our own the last couple of years and with the guys excited over getting last week our first playoff win since 2007, I think we’ll be ready .
“The big key for us is going to be how well we limit the number of yards and big plays they get running the football. If they’re able to pick up first downs and keep the clock moving, it’ll cut into the number of times we have it so we need to force them to punt as much as we can.”
NOTES: The meeting represents the first between the schools since 2003 when Dooly posted a 22-0 first-round win one year after handing Seminole a a 26-8 loss in another first-round meeting. ... The overall series between the schools is snarled at 3-3. ... Seminole has outscored its foes to date 328-164 while Dooly has a 282-134 edge over opponents. ... From a physical standpoint, Hughes said no team member is expected to miss the game although some have nagging injuries.